Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. . Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose. Hyperglycemia, also called raised blood glucose or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.

In 2019, diabetes was the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths and 48% of all deaths due to diabetes occurred before the age of 70 years. Another 460 000 kidney disease deaths were caused by diabetes, and raised blood glucose causes around 20% of cardiovascular deaths.


Symptoms of diabetes may occur suddenly. In type 2 diabetes, the symptoms can be mild and may take many years to be noticed. Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • feeling very thirsty
  • needing to urinate more often than usual
  • blurred vision
  • feeling tired
  • losing weight unintentionally

Over time, diabetes can damage blood vessels in the heart, eyes, kidneys and nerves.

People with diabetes have a higher risk of health problems including heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.

Diabetes can cause permanent vision loss by damaging blood vessels in the eyes.

Many people with diabetes develop problems with their feet from nerve damage and poor blood flow. This can cause foot ulcers and may lead to amputation.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset) is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin. In 2017 there were 9 million people with type 1 diabetes; the majority of them live in high-income countries. Neither its cause nor the means to prevent it are known.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes affects how your body uses sugar (glucose) for energy. It stops the body from using insulin properly, which can lead to high levels of blood sugar if not treated.

Over time, type 2 diabetes can cause serious damage to the body, especially nerves and blood vessels.

Type 2 diabetes is often preventable. Factors that contribute to developing type 2 diabetes include being overweight, not getting enough exercise, and genetics.

Early diagnosis is important to prevent the worst effects of type 2 diabetes. The best way to detect diabetes early is to get regular check-ups and blood tests with a healthcare provider.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can be mild. They may take several years to be noticed. Symptoms may be similar to those of type 1 diabetes but are often less marked. As a result, the disease may be diagnosed several years after onset, after complications have already arisen.

More than 95% of people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes was formerly called non-insulin dependent, or adult onset. Until recently, this type of diabetes was seen only in adults but it is now also occurring increasingly frequently in children.

World Diabetes Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness of diabetes as a global public health issue and what needs to be done, collectively and individually, for better prevention, diagnosis and management of the condition.

This World Diabetes Day, WHO will highlight the need for equitable access to essential care, including raising awareness of ways people with diabetes can minimize their risk of complications. Activities will also celebrate the experiences of people with all forms of diabetes to help those impacted to take action, including seeking and obtaining essential care.

World Diabetes Day 2023, with its theme of ‘Empowering Global Health’, serves as a beacon of hope. It reminds us that by coming together, by understanding, caring, and acting, we can create a world where diabetes does not dictate our lives.

So, this World Diabetes Day, let’s unite. Let’s make the mission of World Diabetes Day 2023 resonate throughout the year, fostering change, growth, and health for all.

Key facts about diabetes

  • Type 1 diabetes is not preventable. Type 2 diabetes is often preventable through a healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use.
  • Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation.
  • Diabetes can be treated and its complications avoided or delayed with regular screening and treatment.
  • People with diabetes should seek regular screening for complications to aid in early detection. This includes screening for kidney disease, regular eye exams, and foot assessment.
  • Quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30-40%.
  • Diabetes is associated with about twice the risk of tuberculosis (TB) disease and a higher risk of multidrug-resistant TB. People with both TB and diabetes are twice as likely to die during TB treatment and have twice the risk of TB relapse after treatment completion.
  • Only about 50% of people with type 2 diabetes get the insulin they need, often because their country’s health systems cannot afford it.

Tuesday, 14 November, 2023



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